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Gender equality still out of reach

Published: March 14, 2014
Section: Front Page, News


This week, Brandeis’ Women and Gender Studies core faculty released a list of statistics, titled “Report Card for Women at Brandeis University.” Accompanied by a graphic, the study unearths how many full-time faculty are women, how many women are on the board of trustees, how many serve in senior administration and more.

“A number of faculty were concerned about the lack of women among honorary degree recipients at the 2013 commencement, and we began by looking at the fraction of women amongst honorary degree recipients over time,” said Wendy Cadge, Women’s & Gender Studies Program Chair and professor of sociology. “From there we wanted to see how women are doing across campus more generally and compiled the information in the report card. We [had] hoped to include more information—about staff and students for example—but were not able to access that data.”

The report card states that the amount of women on the faculty increased from 14 percent of the full-time faculty in 1972-1973, to 42 percent in 2012-2013. Despite this positive increase, the report states: “Differences persist by rank.”

“This is particularly evident among full professors, who are the most senior on campus. 69 percent of full professors were men in 2012-2013 compared to only 31 percent of women. A larger number of women than men are also hired into faculty positions off the tenure line, which are less stable positions in the long term and usually lower paid,” said Cadge.

The report card was released to celebrate the department of Women and Gender Studies’ 35th anniversary. “It allows us to see how the number of women in different roles and positions has changed since our program started 35 years ago and where there is still work to be done on behalf of women and gender nonconforming people,” Cadge said.

In examining the trends in honorary degree recipients, since 1972, 20 percent of honorary degrees have been awarded to women. For the Board of Trustees, the highest percentage of women on the board throughout the years was from 2002-2003, at 28 percent. But compared to other universities, Brandeis seems to have slightly fallen behind in terms of advancing women.

“We have fewer women on the Board than national averages (on average universities have 30 percent women on the Board),” said Cadge. She also admitted, “We have slightly more women on the faculty and likely more men amongst senior administrators … National information about honorary degree recipients does not seem to have been published.”

From 1972 to 2013, Brandeis has had one female president out of five. There have been two female provosts/deans of faculty out of 12. There have been no female chief operating officers/executive vice presidents and no female chiefs of staff. There is only one category in senior administration in which there have been more females than men: in the role of Vice President of Communications.

Susan Lanser, professor of comparative literature, English and women’s and gender studies who also serves as Head of the Division of Humanities, stated that Brandeis is both a school with a history of advancing women, and one that could still improve. “Brandeis has been a pioneer institution from its earliest years in recruiting women to the faculty of the life sciences at a time when universities like MIT and Harvard were discriminating against women,” said Lanser, who also chaired the WGS program for six years, said. “On the other hand, it was not until 2002 that women became part of the tenured faculty in philosophy, which meant that we were lagging behind. It is my sense that our senior-most leadership less diverse in both gender and race than the leadership of many other institutions.” Now there are three women who serve on the philosophy faculty.

However, Cadge has a clear vision on how Brandeis can improve going forward. “We would like to see the university commit to increasing the number of women on the Board of Trustees, among honorary degree recipients and amongst senior administrators. Studies show that universities are run somewhat differently when there is a critical mass of women on the Board which points to importance of making this change. We know this to be the case about senior administrators as well,” said Cadge.

Lanser has a sound opinion as well. “My vision is for a Brandeis that includes—in its leadership, its faculty, its students, its board of trustees and its curriculum—the full spectrum of persons, perspectives and intellectual commitments of the United States and indeed of the world. Without this diversity of vision and voice, of knowledge and insight, we cannot fulfill our mission as a global liberal arts research university,” she said.